by David Hawkins, Director of Public Policy and Research, National Association for College Admission Counseling
“Independent consultants are an important part of our membership and of the educational environment of college admission counseling.”
I have said that to just about every reporter who has ever asked, including cub reporters from student newspapers at prestigious universities (including the University of Pennsylvania). Unfortunately, that quote—or variations on it—rarely, if ever, make it into the story. Because of remarks that I made in the Daily Pennsylvanian earlier this year, I’ve come under intense criticism from some Independent Educational Consultants. Based on the context in which the remarks were set, I can’t say that I blame them. My remarks appeared unflattering to a community of professionals who, as I well know, make an important contribution to student transitions from secondary to postsecondary education.
What the Daily Pennsylvanian didn’t provide, unfortunately, was the context in which my statement was made. During a long and ranging conversation about college advising (both in-school and out-of-school), the reporter asked me if cutting counseling out of schools in favor of a purely market-based system that relied on IECs would work. In response to that question, I responded with my assertion that a reliance on IECs, in that context, was neither sustainable nor equitable. Not sustainable for the same reason that school counselors are overwhelmed—there are simply not enough professionals to go around. Not equitable because for many families, paying anything for college advising is simply beyond their capacity.
I’ve been speaking to the media on behalf of NACAC for more than a decade, and I’ve tried to be very careful to (1) answer the question I’m asked, and (2) provide a nuanced, honest response.
In my mind and at NACAC, the question of the validity of IECs as a group of recognized professionals has long been settled. In fact, my thirteen years at NACAC have occurred well after the internal debate NACAC had on this issue more than a decade ago, so I only imagine such a debate as an historical artifact. When I work with IECs who are members of NACAC, I see no difference between their commitment to excellence, professionalism, and self-improvement and that of school counselors. That IECs would make the commitment to join IECA and/or NACAC speaks volumes about the desire, as individuals and as a profession, to strive for something beyond the day-to-day duties involved in college counseling. That, above all, is why I have worked diligently to represent many of you for more than a decade, and why I will continue to do so enthusiastically.